Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ballsy Buenos Aires

Happy new year blog readers! I had all intentions of writing this blog over the holidays and titling it “Jingle Balls”, which would have been very fitting, but things got a little crazy before my trip back to Canada.

Now that I’m back in Buenos Aires (wilting in the summer heat might I add), I thought it time to address a topic I have been meaning to write about for some time—balls. Balls in many ways figure very prominently here in Buenos Aires. First off, there is football, which is more like a religion here than a sport, and which could and should be another post entirely. But the balls I want to write about here are of another variety.

Yes, I’m talking about testes.

You see, it all started way back in Canada when I met my Argentinian husband. I spoke almost no Spanish, but I was able to pick up un a few expressions that popped up very regularly in his phone conversations. These included no me rompas las pelotas (don’t bust my balls) and hincha bolas, which literally means a swelling of the balls swell and it is used when someone is nagging you. Upon arrival in Buenos Aires, I realized that these two expressions are almost as common as how’s the weather in English.

But the prevalence of balls is not only evident language—it is also very evident in physical gestures. When posing a question or suggestion that is not welcome, it is not unusual to be met with men grabbing their balls and giving them an exaggerated shake. At this point you can safely assume the answer to your question is no. I’m not sure if the big shake would be caused by a busting, as in rompas, or a swelling, as in hincha of the balls, but the clear message is that one’s balls are not to be tampered with.

And this to me is very ironic, because I find Argentine men to be doing exactly that—tampering and tugging and shifting and scratching their balls just about any place I go. You may find me bold for writing about this, but I find it even bolder to watch these acts, which I previously considered private, in public spaces on a daily basis.

Walking down the streets, I see the porteros (door men), leaning against the door frames and shifting and scratching with pleasure while watching all the ladies go by. Riding on the bus, I see men change the ball positions almost as often as people change seats. And looking out the windows of buses, it is truly amazing what you can see – and none of it seems to be evoking any kind of embarrassment from anyone.

I have as of late started to speak my mind about all the shifting and tugging. At a recent lunch with Argentine friends, I was telling a story of being mortified with my husband for doing the exaggerated (and I mean exaggerated) shift in front of expat friends, who are less accustomed to seeing this sort of thing. Speaking as a Canadian, it’s not like I’ve never seen anyone do a subtle shift here and there, and this recent shot of famous Canadian Justin Bieber has certainly made news. But that’s just it—it made news because it’s not common to see that it public. Here, I must say, reaching down for one’s balls is like a source of pride, or even a kind of greeting. I asked my Argentine friends what this was all about.

Everyone just laughed, especially the men. I’m pretty sure that for them the whole conversation is a form of hincha bolas, and certainly served as a trigger to reach down and give things another tug. And the women? While sympathetic, they seemed resigned to the fact that a little tug here and there wouldn’t hurt anyone. I guess in Buenos Aires, that’s just how they roll.